Have you ever wondered how much a physiotherapy appointment should cost, or why costs seem to be different at different clinics or for specific treatments? What are the factors that must be considered by clinic owners when they set fees for physiotherapy services and what can patients expect?
Most community based-physiotherapy clinics are privately owned and operated businesses. The setting of fees is a business decision that must be made by the practice owner based on the business model, services provided, costs to provide the services, and the market in which the services are offered. Physiotherapy service providers have a set of rules that outline what is expected when setting fees and how these fees are to be presented to clients but do not have a fee schedule developed by government or Physiotherapy Alberta that they must adhere here to. The rules related to fees are included in the Standards of Practice that all Alberta physiotherapists must follow when providing services.
The Fees and Billing Standard of Practice identifies the expectations related to the setting of fees and fee schedules.1 The physiotherapist is expected to:
- Clearly communicate applicable fees to clients and payors prior to the provision of physiotherapy services.
- Provide a fee schedule that includes transparent and accurate information about billing policies and all potential charges (e.g., assessments, reports, cancellations, equipment, any additional specialized fees, interest charges).
So, what does this mean to you as a client? Let’s look at each statement separately.
- The first expectation is that businesses offering physiotherapy services must have an easily accessible schedule of any fees that may be charged. It is also expected that you are made aware of these fees before you book your appointment or consent to treatment.
This means you should be able to find out what fees could be charged before you decide where you will receive physiotherapy care or consent to a specific type of intervention. Before you complete an online booking or schedule an appointment, make sure you know what you may have to pay. You should be able to discover the clinic’s fee schedule in a few ways such as looking at the website, having a discussion with reception, or discussing treatment options and the associated costs with your physiotherapist before you consent to a treatment plan.
- The second expectation is that the fee schedule you are provided with clearly outlines all fees that may be charged. There should be no surprises when you receive your bill at the end of your treatment. The fee schedule should include charges for assessment visits, treatment visits, or different fees charged to individual patient populations such as discounted rates for seniors, first responders, or students from a specific school or team.
Any extra fees for specific treatment interventions or equipment must also be clearly indicated. Your physiotherapist should be able to provide a clear explanation for the fees that they charge, including any extra fees.
Examples of additional fees could include:
- Fees related to specific conditions and the treatment methods or techniques used for those conditions, such as assessment and treatment of pelvic health or vestibular conditions
- Fees related to receiving a copy of your chart
If you need to request a copy of your chart you should also be provided with an estimate of the cost related to retrieving, copying, and delivering the record. It is required that this estimate be provided before you receive the documents and the invoice for the chart copy.
In summary, it is important that you have all the information you need before you book an appointment with a physiotherapist. Remember that the Standards of Practice apply to all physiotherapists. The Fees and Billing Standard requires
- Physiotherapists have a fee schedule that clearly communicates applicable fees to clients and payors.
- The fee schedule must be transparent and include all potential charges.
- Clients must have easy access to the complete fee schedule prior to the scheduling and/or provision of any physiotherapy services.
If you can’t find this information or are unsure which fees apply to you, just ask. You should not be surprised by a fee that has appeared on your invoice and that you are suddenly expected to pay.
- Physiotherapy Alberta College + Association (2017) Standards of Practice: Fees and Billing. Available at https://www.physiotherapyalberta.ca/files/practice_standard_fees_and_billing.pdf